Sunday, April 21, 2013

Scott on TV

After the Walker Brothers' success, Scott Walker had become such a popular artist in the UK that he was granted a TV show of his own. Scott surely hesitated because singing other people's songs didn't really fit his artistic ambition that kept growing. Despite being hungry for getting to present his own compositions and lyrics Scott agreed to do the show. He saw it as a way to challenge himself as there were many songs he hadn't sung before.

Scott: Scott Walker Sings Songs from His TV Series was released in July 1969 being his fourth solo album release. The songs on the album are studio re-recordings of the same songs Scott performed live on TV, consisting of big band numbers, ballads, and film music.

At the moment the album is not officially available on CD, thanks to having being blocked by Scott himself. However, most of the songs can be heard on various CD compilations. The rest can be heard through unofficial channels, such as YouTube. Despite the difficulties in availability, the album itself just might be worth hearing if you happen to enjoy Scott Walker singing any kind of good music (and not just self-penned material).

My personal experience with this album has been quite interesting. Knowing Scott and his artist persona, him singing something like Will You Still Be Mine was very bizarre at first. However, those kind of cheery big band numbers didn't sound so strange too long – Scott does a fantastic job throughout the album – even though his version of Look of Love isn't as good as Dusty Springfield's.

In any case, many of the songs on the TV show album are melancholic ballads (which you could definitely expect from Scott) and Scott's renditions are impeccable. You can hear how he took the challenge seriously. The orchestrations are very pleasant thanks to Peter Knight's work as music director.

Wish to hear more of Scott's standards, tender ballads or jazzy numbers? Don't underestimate the power of Scott's TV show music!

P.S. Unfortunately, the actual TV show is gone, thanks to BBC overwriting the tapes. The audio was salvaged, though, which is a good thing even though the quality isn't superb. Search for "Scott Walker BBC TV show".

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bringing Back the Good Times

On Thursday night, I witnessed the spectacle that was a concert from Sweet Jeena and Her Sweethearts' record release tour. What an evening it was, despite the fact that most of the audience seemed to have decided to stay at home. The rest of us were indulged by plenty of entertainment in the form of live music, rock'n'swing dance and burlesque art.

Sweet Jeena (Jeena Rancken) is a fantastic, talented singer who has been performing and making records with a few different backing bands. Jeena's repertoire with the Sweethearts consists of old classics and original music ranging from americana and rockabilly to country and funk, influenced by ”everything that swings and bangs”.

This time, we got to hear real treats such as Pretty Little Angel Eyes and I Feel Good, as well as some originals: Rock'n Roll Picnic, Spare Parts, and How Much Longer to Las Vegas. The musical variety truly acts as a strength: every song, no matter the genre, fits together turning Jeena and her band's perfomances into joyful, energetic dance parties.

Sweet Jeena and Her Sweethearts are definitely not just a cover band – they also perform catchy original material, give their all on stage, dress up for the occasion, and bring some burlesque dancers with them, as well as the band's own 60s-style go-go girls. Jeena and her band are also followed by Swing Team, the most talented and dedicated rock'n'swing dancers in the country. Sounds like a scene from Happy Days? It is pretty much like that.

All in all, the concept shows deep appreciation towards the old times music. For instance, it is not often that you hear old doo wop songs performed live (at least in Finland). Jeena and the Sweethearts do some quite impressive multipart harmonies. In fact, another project from Jeena includes performing fantastic doo wop with UK group the Roomates. That is something special!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Something to Be Proud of

Elephants into Swans, the long-awaited new album by the Sun Sawed in 1/2 has been around for some time now. After a lot of listening, analyzing and thinking I can't find anything to criticize!

As a manifestation of creativity the album succeeds in every way: it contains impeccably performed and mixed, fascinating, catchy pop songs. In my opinion, Elephants into Swans is also a mediator of positive energy and positive thoughts, even though the emotional scale of the music is of course multidimentional and open to different interpretations.

Thematically, the album focuses on the positive sides of love and relationships. Elephants into Swans also clearly embraces the beauty of new-found love. Tim Rose's lyrics are as playful as ever: wordplays, metaphors and double entendres (similar to 1960s bubblegum music lyrics) add to the linguistic richness.

When it comes to the arrangements, everything is really well-thought and professional. The traditional rock band instruments are often accompanied by piano/organ, horns and sometimes strings. Everything is so carefully designed that I still probably haven't noticed all the details – some of the spices have basically been hidden to the mix (Brittle Star can sound rather different with headphones!).

The piano, organ and synth elements deserve a special thanks. Meanwhile, electric guitars are often used like a percussion, leaving room for other instruments (such as piano). In addition, Matt Martin's drum work has always been one of my favorite elements on Sun's albums – an element that seems to get more and more interesting on each new Sun album! So, there is a lot to pay attention to but the mix is elegant and natural and therefore free of heavy compression.

Still my favorite vocalist, Mr. Doug Bobenhouse just keeps getting better. On this album his singing sounds more powerful than ever. Besides the distictive sweetness, you have to admire how he puts his soul into each song.

Tim Rose has stated that he is very satisfied with his songwriting on this album. You can say that the quality control has indeed been rigorous. It is, in fact, quite difficult to pick any special favorites – every song is really good! I enjoy the mysteriously sweet atmosphere of Elephants into Swans as well as the discreet melancholy of Nowhere Fast. This Girl's My Lullaby might be the most easy-going song on the album, and the topic is fantastic. She Offers Her Heart, on the other hand, expresses utter joy and Waltzing in Clover pretty much does the same.

If I had to choose only one favorite song, I would definitely choose You're Getting Warm. The psychedelic flanger heaven is followed by really satisfying beatle riffs and some magical developments. Multiple lead singers is a unique one-time solution on the whole album, and it reminds me of the early Sun. To cut a long story short, the song starts very nicely, turns into real gold and pretty much builds up to ecstatic greatness (those drums)!

Despite the geographical challenges (band members living very far from each other), The Sun Sawed in 1/2 is back and hopefully making many excellent records in the future as well. Elephants into Swans is a fantastic album – something to enjoy countless times and to be truly proud of.

The Sun Sawed in 1/2 on Bandcamp

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Glorious Buckinghams

Well well well.. I wouldn't have thought the Buckinghams belong to the sunshine pop genre. Although this is of course only what Wikipedia states on the matter. I first started listening to the Buckinghams due to recommendations. Their music can be described as classic late 60s American pop music and it does sound a lot like sunshine pop. There are definitely baroque pop elements, such as a strong presence of horns.

Musically, the Buckinghams could be placed somewhere between the Four Seasons and the Beatles, with some sunny gentleness added to the mix. The whole concept of one man singing lead and the rest of the guys doing multipart harmonies resembles the Four Seasons concept quite a bit. Carl Giammarese does a great job with the lead vocals. He may not perform with a distinctive falsetto like Frankie Valli but there is a lot of gentleness and bubblegum sound in Giammarese's voice. He also gives nicely rocking performances when needed.

The Buckinghams wanted to identify with the success of British Invasion groups. Therefore they chose a British-sounding name, dressed up in suits and even recorded music from the Beatles (I Call Your Name). They had several hits in the States and their version of Mercy, Mercy, Mercy was the most successful version of the song.

It is cool that the the Buckinghams are still performing and sounding really good. Giammarese and bassist Nick Fortuna were even recently featured on the big Happy Together tours. I can't get enough of their music!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kiki Dee's Soul

Recently, I have been listening to quite a lot of music that could be described as blue-eyed soul, or white soul. Why white soul, you ask. It might have originated from my fascination towards 60s and 70s bubblegum music which sometimes has a very close connection to soul and/or funk.

It seems that ever since there was gospel, jazz and rock'n roll, white people have adopted the same styles and even identified very strongly with some genres – all of which were originally based on African rhythms. Even today, certain singers reach popularity very much due to sounding black despite being white. And even if all soul singers don't sound black, soul music has come to stay.

In any way, the concept of me listening to white soul is not entirely new. I came across an English singer called Kiki Dee through Scott Walker and Dusty Springfield, both of whose music I recently had become very fond of. Kiki once performed on Scott Walker's TV show, and Kiki Dee also sang background vocals for Springfield who was a soul music singer. Even Scott Walker sometimes flirted with soul.

I practically only needed one song to get impressed enough to purchase a compilation called I'm Kiki Dee: The Fontana Years 1963-1968. What a fantastic voice Kiki has! Even forgetting the voice, it is extremely easy to like her music. Almost everywhere you hear big arrangements with strings and/or horns. There are even some jazz elements present. It is all very, very carefully arranged and professional. However, you could say that a few songs in the beginning of the compilation represent a slightly more primitive sound (and I like those songs too) but the rest perfect in all possible ways.

Kiki's voice is bright, yet suitable for any big heartbroken ballad. Dusty Springfield is a fairly good comparison even though the overall impression you get from Kiki's voice is surely different, gives different vibes. There is an element of delicate sensitivity in Kiki's voice but also many other different nuances. Many of the songs are ballads. Kiki performs sad ballads (Excuse Me, Patterns), happy ballads (Sunshine, We've Got Everything Going for Us), songs that are playful (Doctor in Clover) or bitter (Running out of Fools), and groovy dance numbers (Take a Look at Me, He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'). She also gives a great version of Can't Take My Eyes off You.

Despite having performed very similar and equally good music, Kiki Dee is not as well-known as Dusty Springfield. Kiki didn't have any big chart hits in the UK in the 60s. However, she was apparently the first white artist to be signed by Motown. She has had a long career and I really only have scratched the surface. At least check out the 60s material!

Not many songs on YouTube, try Spotify instead. Here is one, though.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It's Here!!!

If you haven't noticed, Elephants into Swans by The Sun Sawed in 1/2 has now been mixed, mastered, released and is available on iTunes and Bandcamp. Go get it now!

I got the album immediately when I found out about the release. However, I decided to wait for the perfect moment to listen. So, I just listened to the whole thing and it was fantastic. My first reaction was something like this: very balanced sound, catchy songs, countless fascinating details... The music gave a peaceful feeling even though there were some quite intense emotions. And as always, the lead vocals were also really cool.

Also check out the SS1/2 Facebook page to discover some cool stuff.

P.S. There have been some major developments in my life lately, so the blog has been quiet for some time. Now with a lot of time in my hands I hope to become a more active music blogger.